Between that third match and the final, they discovered that they play their best cricket when batting first. So, in the final of IPL 2020, the Delhi Capitals won the toss and did just that. And were blown away again. The Mumbai Indians were way too good for the second-best team of the tournament on four different occasions. With their fourth win over the Capitals, they sealed their fifth IPL title, their most comfortable to date, a crown jewel for the most dominant T20 empire across the cricketing world.
Mumbai had made a big play for that title even before the start of the final. Offspinner Jayant Yadav was drafted in for only his second match of the tournament, to counter the Capitals' left-hand hitters. Before Jayant got into the act, Trent Boult took out the Capitals' superhero Marcus Stoinis. Despite a first fifty of this IPL from Rishabh Pant, the Capitals finished with an underwhelming 156. Quinton de Kock and Rohit Sharma then killed off the chase in the powerplay, with the captain going on to see the chase through.
Former Capitals boys strike
It was a perfect start for Mumbai. They wanted Boult to carry on taking early wickets, and he struck with the first ball, getting Stoinis with extra bounce and inwards movement. In Boult's second, Ajinkya Rahane tickled one down the leg side, probably having moved too far across trying to cover the swing. That made it 16 powerplay wickets for Boult in this IPL, the joint-best for a season alongside Mitchell Johnson who got it in Mumbai's maiden championship year - 2013.
It was in the fourth over that Mumbai struck real gold. Against Jayant - like Boult, not long ago a Capitals player - Shikhar Dhawan had two options: the obvious one was to let the right-hand batsman Shreyas Iyer take Jayant on, or he could try to use the field restrictions himself. He took the less obvious route, trying the big sweep, exposing his stumps, and getting bowled. Capitals 22 for 3 in 3.3 overs.
The Capitals' old firm comes together
They are still young men, but Iyer and Pant had been the core of the Capitals' revival last year. They are probably the two faces that come to mind when you think Capitals. Perhaps not wanting to waste the big overs against an out-of-form Pant, Mumbai chose not to encash the Bumrah match-up so early. The duo picked singles and twos off three straight overs of spin, getting themselves in, before Pant opened up.
Left-arm spin, for some reason, has had the most success against Pant in T20 cricket. His dismissal to Mitchell Santner in the 50-over World Cup semi-final last year also comes to mind. In the last match against Mumbai, he had fallen to a slog-sweep off Krunal Pandya. Here, though, he went straight for his first six as opposed to the slog-sweep. And after that he nailed the slog-sweep. Mumbai were worrying all of a sudden with Pant reaching 32 off 20, and with the Capitals 75 for 3 in 10.
The next five overs went this way and that. Bumrah bowled one without a boundary, but Kieron Pollard - a sign Mumbai were panicking and wanted to get one over out of the way - was not allowed to settle. Nathan Coulter-Nile held his own, but Krunal conceded another boundary. Capitals 108 for 3 after 14.
Coulter-Nile strikes, and Mumbai finish off well
Under pressure as the third seamer, Coulter-Nile was picked over short fine twice, the first of those bringing Pant his only fifty of this IPL. It is not known if Pant noticed the fine leg go back because, later in the over, he appeared to just help along a bouncer. This didn't look like an attempt to hit a six, and deep fine leg took an easy catch.
Now Mumbai tightened the screws. Jayant bowled an excellent 16th over, turning two past the outside edge of Shimron Hetmyer. Boult came back to take out Hetmyer with a slower bouncer. Bumrah bowled the 19th without a boundary. Iyer seemed to run out of gas, not getting enough power into his shots. Having been 37 off 28 at one time, he scored just 28 off the next 22. He spent nine balls in the 40s, and took just five off six Jayant deliveries. The last six overs, when the Capitals would have wanted to do the business, brought 48 for 4.
The chase is a runaway train
In the last match between these sides, R Ashwin had trapped Rohit with a big offbreak first ball. The match-up was on. With two dots first up, both dipping short of Rohit's reach, he took a risk third ball. He skipped down, Ashwin bowled a slider, which was too close to him to get any great power in, but Rohit went ahead with a straight loft. He cleared long-on by a couple of feet. That was the closest Capitals would come to Mumbai.
In dream form, de Kock has been hitting out selflessly and getting Mumbai off to quick starts. In particular, he has been fierce against his compatriot Kagiso Rabada. He just likes pace on the ball, and he laid into Rabada, hitting 4, 6 and 4 in Rabada's first. Stoinis got de Kock out with the first ball he bowled, for 20 off 11, but immediately Suryakumar Yadav hit him out of the attack with a four and a six the first two balls he faced. Mumbai 58 for 1 in five.
Rohit sees it through
While in the background, Rohit wasn't exactly slow at 23 off 14. The next three overs from spinners taking the ball away from both right-hand batsmen brought about a period of lull. The asking rate went up from 6.6 to 7.5. Rohit was facing legspin now, his weakness. If the Capitals were going to come back, it had to be now. Rohit dashed their hopes with two emphatic sixes down the ground off Praveen Dubey. Soon he ran Suryakumar out, but that only made him more determined and he kept picking the boundaries to never let the asking rate rise. Ishan Kishan was an able ally, handing over the strike at first and then making it a double-barrel attack. By the time Rohit got out, they needed just 20 off 22, a job easily accomplished.